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Saturday, March 20, 2021

JUSTICE LEAGUE - The Snyder Cut (2021) or "Four Hours...For THIS???"

Because YOU demanded it: Extended dourness and turgidity.
 
Okay...

I mulled over my thoughts on the Snyder cut of JUSTICE LEAGUE for the past two days, and after sitting through its four-hour run time, I honestly have to ask myself why I even bothered. The immediate answers to that would be 1. So I could speak on it from a fully-informed POV, and 2. To see any new or extended footage involving Diana — yeah, I'm a total Wonder Woman mark — but it really was not worth the time expended. Yes, it's a more coherent piece than the theatrical version and it is very much the work of one director's vision, but an extended mess is still a mess, no matter how much you tart it up. Also, there was no way in hell that any American studio would release four hours of this to theaters and expect to turn a profit. Hell, they even balk at a feature that's just a bit longer than two hours, so four hours? Forget about it.

Yeah, it does flesh out the characters to a much greater degree, but when you have what's basically a pack of either boring non-entities or characters that the director fundamentally does not understand at all, such fleshing-out is about as effective as pissing into a hurricane. And though this version excises the jokey material that was clearly the work of Joss Whedon, what results is a dour, dark, and depressing effort that feel like a four-hour iteration of the Bataan Death March. DC and its stable of superhero characters have always been light fare, some would not unfairly describe them as "whitebread," and what Snyder gives us is an angsty emo kid's take on them. There is neither fun nor joy to be had here, and even the resurrection of Superman is accompanied by the black version of his uniform. As if the film's overall color palette were not already drab enough, we get comics culture's most iconic exemplar of raw power wielded with hope and kindness showing up like he's ready front for My Chemical Romance. At least Darkseid is actually in it (not that he does anything) and the visuals on Steppenwolf are considerably improved.

And speaking of Superman, following the events of BATMAN V SUPERMAN, the entire world knows that Superman was dead and, to a lesser/more localized degree, the same goes for noted Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent. In JUSTICE LEAGUE, when the heroes use a Mother Box to revive Supes, he returns in a confused and aggressive state — as seen in the theatrical version — and both Batman and Lois Lane call out to him as "Clark," and they do so in front of an assortment of police officers and military personnel, thus outing Clark to numerous witnesses. And once the story wraps up, Clark Kent is suddenly back from the dead at the same time as Superman and no one finds that odd?

There really are no spoilers for this version, as it's merely the theatrical excised of the Whedon material and taffy-pulled to a nigh-interminable duration. The post-apocalyptic vision of a world in which Superman has gone bad is also lengthened and it serves zero narrative purpose since a sequel to this will hopefully never happen. In that sequence Batman leads a team of Deathstroke, Mera — who's toting around a couple opf gallons of water in an otherwise arid landscape — and Jared Leto's horrendous take on the Joker, now seen with long hair, smudged lipstick, and spouting a whole lot of nonsense that will never be paid off. Oh, and we also get two brief scenes where the Martian Manhunter shows up, but he serves little or no purpose in the story other than to announce his presence and, while in the form of Martha Kent, get Lois off of her grieving ass and motivate her to return to work.

If none of this sounds compelling, it's because it isn't, and you are advised to spend four precious hours doing something, damned near anything else, other than sitting through this glacially-paced monument to the power of fandom and its ability to bully a studio into making you see the same garbage twice, only now with more garbage to pad it out. For completists only, and maybe not even then.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

POSTCARD FROM THE WELL OF LONELINESS

I hate it that people aren't taking the pandemic seriously.

I get that people want to return to things as they were in the previous norm, but get fucking real. That norm is DONE, and it will not, hell, CANNOT return. But people continue to say "Fuck it" and congregate en masse, thus creating more infection vectors, but, again, "Fuck it! I want's me comforts! I wants me social interaction! I wants ta gits me drink on! I wants to party!!!"

Do you think others don't want that? We're all going bugfuck insane from the responsibilities of maintaining social distancing and whatever other protocols go with functioning in and staving off a goddamned pandemic, and it's up to each of us to butch up and bear it until it's over, but the "over" part of all of this will be a long time in coming as the brain dead insist on congregating en masse and therefore possibly spreading the virus whenever they disperse. And it's not helping that our appointed government officials are showing their lack of a spine, or displaying their onw self-interests, by caving and rescinding mask mandates and restrictions on public gathering, dining, entertainment, what have you.

I'm a 55-year-ol single male living in New York City. I have a huge group of close friends, some of whom I've been tight with for forty years or longer, and though we all love the times we have when we all get together, we are all acting responsibly and either maintain isolation (which is presumably easier for those who are married or have domestic partners) or we limit our social interactions to infrequent get-togethers of 8-10 people, all of whom have been tested or vaccinated and who are certified as COVID-free. And some remain masked during such small gatherings, despite the certainty of the virus's absence. And in all other excursions and interactions outside of out homes, we diligently stayed masked-up.

But while it's nice to have these occasional limited interactions, it's certainly not enough for a gregarious type like me. The isolation within my small studio apartment (that is a master study in clutter) is sanity-taxing, plus to say nothing of having no choice but to be stuck in the painful and depressing perpetual cycle of dialysis until a donor kidney comes along. Am I depressed? Yes. Do I have days when I very much feel like I'm losing my grip on time and sanity? Absolutely. Am I lonely as hell and am I in need of some female lovin'? Unequivocally, YES. But there is nothing to be done about it for now, as the dread spectre of as COVID-19 still continues to blight the landscape. Hopefully vaccination will help somewhat, but who knows how long the pandemic will last while selfish and science-ignorant fucksticks continue to raise a middle finger to common sense and carry on with their cavorting? If not for my sporadic visits with Tracey, her daughter, her boyfriend, and her ginormous moosh of a dog, I sincerely think I would go utterly mad. And at all other times, I feel like the last man on Earth.

Loneliness is a bitch under the best of circumstances, but in the new normal — which, let's face it, the majority of us have unfortunately become accustomed to — it's a mental, spiritual, and emotional death sentence. The question is: When will the loneliness finally do me in? I do my best to fight it, and I will continue to wage the battle, but eventually even heavily-fortified fortresses fall, and I am just a human being of flesh and bone.

(written while sitting on the edge of my futon bed in my boxer briefs and a Blowfly t-shirt)


DIALYSIS: A LAMENT

Please allow me to vent for a moment.

I hate dialysis. I know it's saving my life but I really, REALLY fucking hate it.

Kidney failure is no picnic and neither is the ongoing treatment for it, but I must endure until whenever a kidney becomes available that is a perfect match.

Dialysis is physically painful, thanks to the needles and the occasional bloody mishaps that go with them, and aside from my own agonies I am constantly reminded of the pain involved by the moans and screams of my fellow patients. I may experience pain, but I will not give it the satisfaction of making me scream. A yelp or two here and there, but never screams.

I hate the dialysis center. It's a depressing facility straight out of a medical horror movie. Its white floors and walls that reflect the glare of the overly bright lighting, the rows of dialysis machines and the assorted noises that they make. The chairs that one sits in during the dialysis process may as well be a prison for the mind and body while one is there, as one is trapped in them and forbidden to move for close to four solid hours, during which time one learns firsthand to understand relativity, as one feels those hours stretch on for what seems to be a century.

While I fully understand that they have no control over their actions, being among elderly dementia patients for several hours three days per week is a soul-destroying affair. They are lost within their own heads as they cry out to be released every two minutes, some screaming and crying in pain as well as in confusion. Mr. Adler in particular is an especially tragic case. He's a bearded old Hasid who was once reportedly a knowledgeable scholar and teacher of his faith, but now his mind functions on a disconnect from time and space as he wonders where he is and constantly asks to be set from his seat and from the machine. I do not know him outside of treatment, but it pains me to see a once great mind reduced to being stuck in a time loop.

While I love the experienced nurse/techs, I dread times of cutbacks that lead to under-staffing. Those times find the veteran nurse/techs occupied more on specific sides of the facility, thus leaving those of us in the middle in the care of inexperienced intern nurse/techs who will hopefully gain experience on the fly. We patients fear being in the care of these well-intentioned newbs because they have no skills in practical application, so they often fumble in ways that result in pain and blood. There's no sensation quite like standing on linoleum in a puddle of blood that has spurted from an artery in your arm where a newb nurse/tech mis-applied the needles or failed to properly bandage the entry points after treatment, resulting in blood dripping all over the place like syrup at a pancake house breakfast.

Yes, I have an assortment of items to keep me distracted during the process, but I would rather be nearly anywhere else, doing anything else, but until the kidney comes through I will be stuck in the endless loop of treatment one day, rest/recovery the next day, then back to treatment and rinse and repeat.

And I must admit I am beginning to psychologically break from being stuck in all of it. One can only be so strong for so long, and I am definitely reaching my limit. When one's life is on hold thanks to forces beyond one's control, one's life becomes a purgatory.

I am not religious and I never will be, but if I were the praying type, I would implore the gods for swift arrival of a replacement organ, but it's a case of "wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which fills up first...”


Sunday, January 31, 2021

WINTER WONDERLAND OF ASSHOLISM


Ahead of the impending nor'easter, I just went around the corner to the Associated for a few items, not even stuff I couldn't wait until after the storm to obtain. At that point it was barely snowing, just a flake or two here and there.

I got there and found the place had reinstated COVID-related amounts of people in the store, so I waited on line for about ten or fifteen minutes to get in. When I made it inside I was almost shut out, but the staffer at the door, Annette, recognized me and let me in, cutting off the line once I was inside. I got the ten items I needed and got on line and commenced with the usual long wait that happens during blizzard panic. The wait allowed me to notice that the other shoppers had filled up their carts with Brobdingnagian amounts of items, as though they were going to be snowed in for the remainder of the winter. It was truly ridiculous, and the Latina heifer in front of me had a cart overflowing with 2-liter bottles of soda, multiple types of chips, other assorted junk food, and stacks of Oreos and Fig Newtons.

Anyway, the wait was interrupted when a fifty-something black chick on my line accused a white couple of cutting the line. There were three open lines and the white couple got onto an open one, but the black chick for some reason accused them of cutting. She loudly berated them, particularly the female of the pair, thinking her embarrassing display of "going all black" on them would scare them into some sort of submission over nothing. To her credit, the white chick explained to the belligerent harridan that there were three lines and that they had simply gotten on one that was open.

The black chick nonetheless continued her hostile antics, attempting to bring the staff in on it, but the staff — all Latinas — told her that she was in the wrong and the white chick had done nothing to earn her ire. That shut her up for a moment, but then she began complaining about it to herself in a loud voice. Most people would have let it go right there because she was clearly just a pointlessly angry person just looking for a fight for no reason, but the white chick overheard her and said "What's your problem?" That gave the black chick an excuse to continue her tirade, only this time she left her place on line to confront the white chick directly. She got in the white chick's face and bellowed "'What's my problem?" My problem is you!!! You're an asshole!!! I will drag you around this store!!! Do you hear me? I WILL DRAG YOU AROUND THIS STORE!!! MY SISTER IS A DETECTIVE!!!" Again, to her credit, the white chick did not back down at all, responding with "Oooooooh, I'm SO scared..." in the same manner one child would address another on the playground. The black chick, angered that the white chick was clearly not phased by her antics began to rant and rave incoherently, getting more and more wound-up while the other customers shitted and moved away because she was clearly becoming unhinged at this point — remember, this was all over nothing — so the staff opened up the seldom-used fourth checkout aisle and moved her onto it in order to appease her and shut her up. The tactic worked, though she still maintained attitude as she exited.

I tell you, impending blizzards never fail to bring out the worst in people. I have lived here for going on 24 years and every time I decide to pick up a few items as a blizzard looms, there is invariably some asshole who will get fed up with the long waits on line and take out their frustration on some innocent fellow customer. Without fail.

Sometimes I hate people.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (2019)

Much ado about nothing.
 
Well, I finally saw GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (2019), and my life would have been in no way diminished if I had skipped it altogether. ( refused to pay to see it in the theater.) At least it got me through most of today's dialysis session.

I know that there are a lot of people out there who will cream their jeans over anything with the Godzilla name attached to it, and that audience was more than likely satisfied by this bloated, needlessly overlong, bland studio gewgaw that amounted to the cinematic equivalent of jangling dangled keys in front of an infant, and they are welcome to it. It's a CGI orgy and pretty much nothing more. The characters, if you can even call them that, did not engage me in the slightest, and that's really saying something when you consider that Charles Dance plays the antagonist. (The film tragically squanders his talents.) And though the characters in the Japanese run can largely be described as annoying, corny, or silly, at least they had personalities that made them memorable and entertaining. Also, they were fun. (Some prefect examples: Astronauts Glenn and Fuji, Miss Namikawa, and the polar opposite of silly, boring, and unmemorable, Dr. Serizawa.)

As for the monsters, I liked what they did with Mothra, and Rodan's battle with the Mexican air force was spectacular, but I didn't give a shit about either Godzilla nor King Ghidorah.
It was like watching clones of dear old friends trying to pass themselves off as the real thing. You see, for me the Toho monsters just do not work when handled outside of their native culture and specific context. In the better films of his Japanese franchise, Godzilla was originally envisioned as the embodiment of the horror of the atomic bomb as commented upon by a people who experienced it firsthand — TWICE — and he was later retconned to be the living vengeance of those who died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which is extremely heavy stuff that lends the character true gravitas and terror. Removed from that context, all you have is a big lizard. Also gone is any trace of the personality displayed in the homegrown Godzilla films, and that personality, be it when he's an outright walking natural disaster or when he's something of a superhero, Godzilla had an identifiable character and swagger that is utterly absent in his American iteration, an aspect that I say stems from the American studio's fundamental lack of understanding of the character at his most basic. Sure, the special effects were among the best that money can buy, but they were in service of a dull, un-involving narrative that's as hollow as an ice cream cone minus a scoop.

Anyway, I'm glad that I had the good sense to avoid this during its theatrical run, as, to me, it would have been a waste of twenty bucks. It was every bit the empty corporate product that I expected, and now I fear the same may be the case with GODZILLA VS KONG. Thanks to how much I enjoyed KONG: SKULL ISLAND, I will see GODZILLA VS KONG, but the bar of my expectations is firmly set lower that a slug's ballsack. If it's actually good, I will totally support it, but if it sucks and it's boring, I'll bail on all further American Godzilla entries.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

BATMAN:SOUL OF THE DRAGON (2021)

 (L-R) Richard Dragon, Batman, Lady Shiva, the Bronze Tiger. Sheer badassery.

A dear friend who's immersing himself into the DC animated movies strongly recommended that I check out BATMAN: SOUL OF THE DRAGON, and he was absolutely right. Its setting is the world of '70's-era kung fu and blaxploitation movies, or rather a blending of the two flavors, and it reimagines the Batman as one of several former students of a martial arts master who band together to take on an otherworldly evil. It's non-stop action from start to finish and it will all be quite familiar to those steeped in the films that it evokes.

The originally Caucasian Richard Dragon has been recast as Bruce Lee's ENTER THE DRAGON-style superspy, and it works like a charm. The Bronze Tiger is also present — voiced by Black Dynamite himself and real-life martial arts badass, Michael Jai White — and I'll be damned if his look is not meant to evoke '70's-era Luke Cage, which also works beautifully. Lady Shiva is her usual utterly deadly self (the story does not in any way shy away from her total willingness to kill), and the Batman in this story is definitely the Englehart-Rogers version, visually returning his look to that of his 1930's pre-Robin iteration (my favorite version, BTW). 
 

Batman, rockin' it old school.

BATMAN: SOUL OF THE DRAGON is a solid winner and it gets my HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION for those who are in on what it's laying down. The live-action Batman movies wish they were even 1/16 as good or as much fun as this 82-minute animated effort.
 
With these four united, the bad guys may as well dig their own graves and save the undertakers the trouble.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

CRUISIN' WITH IVAN


Yesterday's dialysis went without a hitch, though I did end up suffering from the usual foamy saliva and hiccups afterward, but I distracted myself from that with an evening over at Tracey's. That said, the one new negative hitch to yesterday was the guy I got on my car service ride home from treatment. He was a chatty Russian who has been a cabbie for 30 years, and he spoke fluent (though moose-and-squirrel-accented) English, so there was zero language barrier when for 25 minutes he filled me in on his philosophy of life, work ethics and politics.

Among other classic quotes from this guy were "I came here as a political refugee and was brought up all my life to work hard, that's why I am a conservative," and "Everything wrong with this country is because of Hilary." I was a captive audience as he cheerily went on and on about his views on America (which he loves) and the greatness of its Republican leaders, how Trump was the best thing to happen to this country and how the current treatment of him was a disgrace, and, my favorite part, the "fact" that all African-Americans amount to nothing in this country because they are "simply too damn lazy." When he let fly with that one, I lowered my mask, which obscures everything but my eyes, and told him "Well, I'm a 55-year-old African-American and I would still be working right now if not for falling victim to corporate downsizing twice and one firing for petty reasons, plus to say nothing of illnesses that rendered a full-time job out of the question for the past seven years. Without missing a beat, the guy explained that he did not find all black people lazy, just African-Americans. To explain his point, he noted that his daughter had married a hard-working Jamaican immigrant and that he had two grand-kids from that union that he loves more than anything, plus he was quick to point out that his son-in-law worked three jobs "and never slacks." He then recounted his history of having been in the U.S. Navy for some years, and how grateful he was to Trump for "channeling benefits to U.S. military, especially Navy veterans," and that African-Americans, despite being "lazy bastards and whores," constantly received endless benefits that they were unworthy of because they had not earned them due to their laziness. Oh, and he was also an advocate for the barring of immigration into the country because "illegals get all of the benefits and they did not earn any of them." He capped off that statement with full acknowledgement of his own immigrant status, but noted that he earned everything that he gets.

I endured all of this in gobsmacked disbelief, as I am used to such conversations on my car service rides to and from dialysis being automatically nipped in the bud by the language barrier. (My drivers from the insurance-provided service are invariably Russian.) But at no point was I offended, simply because the driver was so cheery and articulate while espousing his Trumpanzee leanings. He was charming , sweet, and intelligent, and his overall personality was utterly charming, despite me absolutely being in total disagreement with nearly everything that came out of his mouth. Anyway, when we finally arrived at my building and my driver wished me well, you could have heard a sonic boom from the speed with which I exited that car and made my way into my building. An evening at Tracey's was just what I needed after that, and I wrote all of this up not only to amuse all of you, but also so Tracey, Matt, and Shun could get the whole story. As previously stated, I was suffering from my usual post-treatment miseries, so my voice was mostly shot and talking was torture.